back to article SpaceX small print on Starlink insists no Earth government has authority or sovereignty over Martian activities

SpaceX has ambitions for its Starlink constellation beyond annoying stargazers if the pre-order agreement for its satellite-based internet service is anything to go by. Spotted by Register reader Amarinder Brar during his UK application for the system, an intriguing section in the fine-print warns that disputes related to " …

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Remember 1776 ......

          Hold on, isn't colonisation double-plus ultimate evil nowadays? Saxons out of Angland! Angland for the Angles!

          1. rg287 Silver badge

            Re: Remember 1776 ......

            Hold on, isn't colonisation double-plus ultimate evil nowadays? Saxons out of Angland! Angland for the Angles!

            USA out of Puerto Rico! No taxation without representation!

        2. Fr. Ted Crilly

          Re: Remember 1776 ......

          cough..Dorsa Brevia Declaration...cough cough

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Remember 1776 ......

            Dorsa Brevia? Bunch of hippie utopians to my eye.

      1. Paul Herber Silver badge

        Re: Remember 1776 ......

        Let's have any putative Martian constitution be written by the nation that first colonises the place, so that'll probably be China. Happy?

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Remember 1776 ......

        "It's like saying that the U.S. Constitution should have been written by shipwrights in Europe who would eventually bring people over, for the moment ignoring the native population of the Americas because everyone at the time did. They have no right to assert sovereignty."

        I get your point, but the analogy falls over when you think about who paid for/patronised the voyages to found the colonies. It wasn't the shipwrights or ship owners. It was governments.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Remember 1776 ......

          I think the analogy still stands. Spacex is a shipwright. Current governments are like the colonizers. Neither has a right to decide unilaterally what the law for those who live there should be. If one has more right, it is the governments because that's where the people are now. Spacex though ... it just builds ships. It should stop trying to assume authority it doesn't deserve.

          1. rg287 Silver badge

            Re: Remember 1776 ......

            I think the analogy still stands. Spacex is a shipwright. Current governments are like the colonizers. Neither has a right to decide unilaterally what the law for those who live there should be.

            Ah well, SpaceX isn't just the shipwright. They'll also be operating the trips - as if White Star Line had built their own liners instead of contracting to H&W.

            In the early days, the ships will be the first-generation habitats and the Captain will have ultimate authority over the crew & colonists. They and whoever pays their salary (NASA, SpaceX, the Mormons) will determine the law.

            Once the colony is more than a couple of ship's worth of course, you start to get into an autonomous collective.

            1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

              Re: Remember 1776 ......

              Once the colony is more than a couple of ship's worth of course, you start to get into an autonomous collective.

              You're fooling yourself! We're living in a dictatorship! A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes ...

              1. A K Stiles Silver badge

                Re: Remember 1776 ......

                Come and see the violence inherent in the system!

                1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: Remember 1776 ......

                  "Come and see the violence inherent in the system!"

                  Nah, it's on PPV. I'm sit in my unders with snacks and beer and watch it on the telly.

              2. lowwall

                Re: Remember 1776 ......

                Do some more, it's the funniest extended piece of movie dialogue of all time. Here's a link for the entire thing: https://sluggerotoole.com/2018/04/18/strange-women-lying-in-ponds-distributing-swords-is-no-basis-for-a-system-of-government/

                Apropos of this topic:

                King Arthur: Then who is your lord?

                Peasant Woman: We don’t have a lord.

                King Arthur: What?

                Dennis: I told you, we’re an anarcho-syndicalist commune. We take it in turns to act as sort of executive officer for the week…

                King Arthur: Yes…

                Dennis: …but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting…

                King Arthur: Yes I see…

                Dennis: …by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs…

                King Arthur: Be quiet!

                Dennis: …but by a two thirds majority in the case of more…

                King Arthur: Be quiet! I order you to be quiet!

                Peasant Woman: “Order”, eh? Who does he think he is?

                King Arthur: I am your king.

                Peasant Woman: Well, I didn’t vote for you.

                Of course we know how it's all going to end:

                Arthur: [shakes Dennis] Shut up!

                Dennis: Oh! Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help, help, I’m being repressed!

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Remember 1776 ......

            "Spacex though ... it just builds ships"

            As for big rockets, they just build bombs right now.

      3. rg287 Silver badge

        Re: Remember 1776 ......

        In comparison, a Mars trip has all of these reversed. If countries on Earth wish to impose their will on Martian societies, they won't have to do it by sending troops over. The easiest way is to stop sending stuff over. It's much easier for someone on their own to survive on Earth than on Mars, and stuff breaks.

        In fairness, that would have worked on the pre-US American colonists too, prior to the foundation of any sort of industry - the Americans either needed gunpowder shipping over or a sufficient mining & industrial base to make their own. Same for entirely basic supplies such as nails or hand tools. Yes they could breathe the air and eat the food (which is a big step), but early pioneers were heavily reliant on the European industrial base for many materials.

        Any comparison between the US War of Independence and an Earth/Martian dispute would only be valid once the Mars colony is at a point where they are substantially homesteading (which is harder than for American pioneers since you can't even breathe the atmosphere on Mars). That's at least 100years down the line. If we consider the European colonisation of America to have started with Jamestown (1607), then it was 168years until the Revolutionary War started in 1775.

        As the Martian industrial base develops (local manufacturing of building materials, some refining of metals, growing self-sufficiency in food, air production, etc) we can expect to see strategic export restrictions on things like clean-room tech, semiconductor manufacturing and photolithography gear - the really high-end stuff you'd need to be a fully independent modern, technological society. In all probability, Mars will have to develop that from (almost) scratch (having poached some engineers). Earth won't sell it to them - just the finished products. But that won't be relevant before 2120 at the earliest.

        1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: Remember 1776 ......

          Sheer fantasy, I'm afraid. There is not the slightest prospect of Mars ever - let alone within a hundred years - having a settlement, economy or industry. There is nothing there worth going for and even at Space X rate the cost of getting a single person there is enormous. The Sahara and Antarctica would be better prospects for colonisation.

          Isaac Asimov was a third rate writer, not a prophet. Sorry.

          1. heyrick Silver badge

            Re: Remember 1776 ......

            "The Sahara and Antarctica would be better prospects for colonisation."

            I think the idea is that since we're doing such a fine job of buggering up this planet... wishful thinking... oh look a whole new planet to break.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Remember 1776 ......

            Asimov was never a prophet, he was a really good writer of stories.

            I agree that there isn't anything on Mars that's valuable enough to bring back to Earth to pay the costs of going there, never mind coming back as well. It's not even certain how well humans would do in 1/3G. The first generation may wind up with all sorts of health problems that limit forming a second generation that may not come out too well themselves. The fanbois tout 3D printing as the cure for all things, but fail to take into account that they need certain raw materials to feed to the printers. Most 3D printers use petroleum based feedstock. Maybe something can be synthesized, but when a semiconductor expels its magic smoke, there is no way to 3D print another one.

            I'm a big fan of James Burke's "Connections" series. Richard Hammond did one and it's a theme that comes around every so often. It makes me look at the tools you need to make the tools to make the tools to harvest the raw materials that you need to make the tools to make the item you want. I don't know where you'd come up with fibers on Mars to make cloth, but looking at the most primitive weaving loom tells a long story about the thousands of years it took to get there. A huge problem is that everybody's time would be so valuable that a slow manual loom used to make cloth is too expensive.

          3. This post has been deleted by its author

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Member 1776 ......

            True it seems to be, Ian Johnston.

            Bonds. Stocks. Shares.

            The vaults of New Pharaons are overloaded with Crap that won't let'em have the appropriate decisions to save neither kin, nor skin.

            Who is to take care of The Library?

            These dickheads have neither awareness, nor caring intent on the subject.

        2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Forget 1776 ...... Remember the Future Provides the Present

          Any comparison between the US War of Independence and an Earth/Martian dispute would only be valid once the Mars colony is at a point where they are substantially homesteading (which is harder than for American pioneers since you can't even breathe the atmosphere on Mars). ..... rg287

          And whenever the Earth/Martian dispute is decided in absolute favour of Earth atmosphere breathing Martians with forward operating bases in outer spaces and secured planetary places ?

          Well, ..... then, surely, any and all future talking of disputes with alien sovereigns are tantamount to declarations of war against forces with sources you have no reliable believable knowledge of and against which all and anything spectacularly fails. Heed some extremely sound and even quite presidential advice .... such a crass path is gravely to be regarded. That way leads to whole worlds of the exceedingly bad and the rad and the sad and the mad destroying inequitable gains and creating crushing personal liability pains.

          You have to surely admit, it is a profound arrogance in Earthlings thinking to travel to far off inhospitable alien landing sites, to not realise and imagine that are not alone and not leading future events and crashing systems recoveries with unprecedented novel discoveries/proprietary intellectual property pumps and dumps.

          Thank your lucky stars for the likes of Elon Musks in your midsts.

    1. Dr Scrum Master

      Re: Remember 1776 ......

      A handful of frontiersmen and a French army, and a Spanish army, and some help from the Dutch.

    2. Bliar003

      Re: Remember 1776 ......

      No they didn't. British colonists lead by former British Army officers fought with the "mother country" for their right to maintain slavery, which the latter had de facto outlawed in 1772.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Remember 1776 ......

        Typo there Shirley. 1772 was de jure, it was de facto before the 1500s, with sources for the 1300s.

      2. Fr. Ted Crilly

        Re: Remember 1776 ......

        Did you know, Washington's home 'Mount Vernon' was named by the half brother that served with the British Admiral Vernon. ;-)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Remember 1776 ......

      After all a relatively small handful of frontiersmen (people for the PC) beat (or at least drew with) one of the foremost military powers.

      Since when things have got steadily worse, ending up with Trump as president, power cuts in Texas for reasons, a collection of sports no one else plays and no healthcare. And the coffee is terrible.

      1. LogicGate

        Re: Remember 1776 ......

        "a collection of sports no one else plays"

        Do you happen to be thinking of the very american sport of "hand-egg"?

  1. iron Silver badge

    > States Parties to the Treaty, shall bear international responsibility for national activities in outer space

    So if activities are not national but are say entirely the responsibility of a company with X in it's name then states party to the treaty bear no responsibility.

    IMO IANAL etc

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      It's fairly clear:

      If a French company sent up a satellite and it bumped into an Australian satellite and damaged it, the other signatories would hold the government of France responsible.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        How do you distinguish that situation from the Australian satellite bumping into the French one?

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          "How do you distinguish that situation from the Australian satellite bumping into the French one?"

          Which one moved last? If the Australian satellite is on a steady course, then the French operators knew it was there. There are big databases of where satellites and other orbiting objects are to prevent exactly that. If the French satellite launches into the orbit of the Australian satellite and they therefore collide, it's the fault of the operators of the French satellite. Those operators are under France's jurisdiction and come under any French and EU space regulations.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Starlink (or similar) for Mars makes sense

    After all, people will need to communicate and navigate when they do finally get there in any numbers.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Starlink (or similar) for Mars makes sense

      They could use radio ?

      It worked well enough for us for a while, and actually still does.

      1. Juanguanomo
        Alien

        Re: Starlink (or similar) for Mars makes sense

        Earth has a handy ionosphere for bouncing radio signals around the globe. Mars doesn't have this luxury.

  3. S4qFBxkFFg

    Starlink on the Moon will be difficult; there are very few stable low lunar orbits (only specific inclinations will work due to the Moon having quite an uneven mass distribution compared to Earth). Maybe they can get it to work somehow, but they can't just stick the same types of satellite into the same altitude and expect a drag-free ride until the electronics fail.

    1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      But the cool thing is that it would be possible to put something into orbit around the Moon at an altitude that barely skims the top of the craters.

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge

        Cool, but possibly not the best strategy :)

        Any moonbase will have a fully built internal comms system from day-1, all that will be needed is a small dual purpose GPS/comms type constellation to talk between sites for the first century or two.

      2. MarkSitkowski

        I believe the laws of physics say that can't be done. It would need to be a powered flight.

    2. IT Poser

      Re: there are very few stable low lunar orbits

      That depends on your definition of low. At 100 km you are correct sir. The effects of Lunar mascons (short for mass concentrations) distort orbits in this region. As altitude increases mascon effects decrease rapidly. Above 400 km the effects become insignificant.

      Also, did you hear the one about the restaurant on the Moon? The food is great but it has no atmosphere.

      Drag won't be an issue the hypothetical Moonlink constellation has to deal with. This means propellant isn't needed to maintain orbit like Starlink needs. Dead satellites will need to be actively removed from orbit though.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      It will be easier to have a ground based network on the surface of the moon with an Earth bounced network for backup rather than trying to get satellites orbiting and keeping them there.

  4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    What does our resident Martian have to say about this?

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Alien

      Maybe Elon got to him already!

      1. Charlie van Becelaere

        Maybe Elon got to him already!

        Maybe he IS Elon.

  5. Primus Secundus Tertius

    Martian settlers

    I look forward to the day that settlers on Mars dump their American coffee in the Martian sands as a protest against taxes which they claim are unjust, especially if they are not represented in Congress.

    1. Irony Deficient

      Re: Martian settlers

      US citizens who live outside of the US (“outside” includes Mars, since the US is a state party to the Outer Space Treaty) retain their right to vote in US elections as long as they hold US citizenship; their votes (via absentee ballots) would be tallied according to the jurisdiction of their last residence within the US.

      It would be far more interesting to see residents of the District of Columbia throw their own Commodity Party, since they pay federal taxes but haven’t had voting representation in Congress since 1801. (As a result, US expatriates on Mars who last resided within the US in DC would remain without voting representation in Congress.)

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Martian settlers

        That's 'cos DC ain't a state, and federal elections are for positions in the federation, and the federation is a federation of states, you've gotta be a state to be a member of the federation. Just like Isle of Man doesn't vote for representatives in the UK parliament because it's not a constituent of the UK, and Norway don't vote for representatives in the EU 'cos Norway ain't a member of the EU.

        If you wanna vote in the club, you gotta be in the club.

        1. Snowy
          Facepalm

          Re: Martian settlers

          Yes but they still pay taxes!

  6. Mike 16 Silver badge

    240.0.0.0/4?

    Or will IPV4 be completely retired by the time it's relevant?

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: 240.0.0.0/4?

      You know that http to Mars will not work? (yeah, ftp does...) timeouts.

      1. keith_w Bronze badge

        Re: 240.0.0.0/4?

        what do you mean? You can't set TTL to 22+ minutes? Ping You!

    2. Geoff Campbell
      Facepalm

      Re: 240.0.0.0/4?

      It is a sad indictment of the lack of forward-thinking employed that Starlink uses IPv4 and CGNAT, as I understand it.

      IPv6 as default would have been way nicer. Ho hum.

      GJC

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